Fireman Harry served for almost 40 years

Fire Fighter Harry Cotter (fourth left), who has been in Ballymena Fire Station since March 1976, receives a gift from his colleagues as he retires as the station Watch Commander. INBT28-216AC

Fire Fighter Harry Cotter (fourth left), who has been in Ballymena Fire Station since March 1976, receives a gift from his colleagues as he retires as the station Watch Commander. INBT28-216AC

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As dozens of potential firefighters responded to a local recruitment drive, one long serving local fireman was retiring from the job.

On June 29, as the first of two open evenings for would-be part-time firefighters got underway at Ballymena Fire Station, Watch Commander Harry Cotter confirmed he was stepping down after almost 40 years’ service to the Ballymena community, and beyond.

Harry was presented with a gift that night froms his colleagues at the Waveney Road base to mark the occasion.

A spokesperson told The Times: “Harry has served Ballymena through some of the darkest times of the Troubles and is now hanging up his helmet to enjoy some well deserved time with his family.”

Harry started as a firefighter in 1976 and in 2003 was promoted to the role of Watch Commander.

Heavily involved in the FBU (Fire Brigade Union), Harry holds the post of Chair of the National Retained Committee - the committee responsible for the retained (part-time) firefighter’s rights for all the UK fire services.

The Ballymena crew also extended their best wishes to another former Ballymena firefighter, Dr Joe McKee OBE who was unable to attend the special evening.

Dr McKee who is Chairman of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Board is also stepping down from that role after a four and a half year tenure.

The two Open Nights held at Ballymena Fire Station on June 29 and July 6 for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service’s recruitment drive proved busy as interested men and women from a wide area called in to find out more about the opportunity to become skilled community firefighters providing emergency services to those who need it.